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Jun 3, 2007 08:58 PM

Fine and local dining in and around St. John's, Newfoundland

I am looking for an up to date list of the fine dining restaurants in St. John's, Newfoundland and the surrounding areas (willing to drive up to an hour or three away, particularly for a scenic/spectacular spot). Also, we are looking for local spots, perhaps off the beaten path, with delicious food and reasonable prices- a sort of "best of cheap eats" if you will.

I live in NYC, and my boyfriend is a consultant posted in St. John's for the next few months. I am visiting for about 4 days at the end of this month (June), and that time will be shared between the city and the countryside (once we figure out where else to go!). Living in NYC, we are pretty spoiled by the good food, but gravitate towards local, seasonal and creative cuisine. We are also adventurous eaters and like to try what we don't find back home- are cod tongues still around? Are they as good as I have read one blogger describe? Any other local delicacies we should know about?

Any help from residents or travelers would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. Didn't get much of a response, did you?!

    Lest anyone think St. John's is a culinary wasteland, I'm going to summarize Where to Eat in Canada's recommendations (I've lived in Nova Scotia for seven years but haven't ever been to The Rock— or even Cape Breton. For shame!).

    Aqua gets one star— sun-dried tomato foccacia with three bean spread when you sit down, then there's focus on soups— Mulligatawny, beef & parsnip stew... Also lamb shanks and paella. Bananas in phyllo is the sweet of choice. Early bird specials from 5:30 to 6:30.

    Bianca's gets one star— they seem to focus on higher-end preparations of things like halibut (Cajun-style with bitter lemon sauce), venison, and caribou fricassee (with sour cherries and shallots). Sweets are described as "delicate" apple strudel and a soufflé-like bread pudding.

    International Flavours— Pakistani cuisine. There's only one hot plate in the back, so you only get one choice: curries, lentils, or chickpeas on basmati for $6.95 at lunchtime. Wish we had something like that in Lunenburg!

    Oliver's— offers local specialties like scrunchions (no idea) and cods' tongues, and lots of their dishes apparently have an Asian flair. They focus on seafood, as you'd expect. The cod and sweets aren't recommended.

    The Sprout— international fusion vegetarian cuisine, with a menu full of bad puns. Large portions, friendly staff... veggie burgers and Pad Thai are recommended.

    I hope this helps! Maybe your boyfriend has already scouted these places out. Cheers!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Smartlikestreetcar

      Looking for a restaurant, pub or other venue to have a an 80th birthday party this summer in St. John's. It will be an afternoon affair, but will not be laid back, we need a place that has some atmosphere, pub like or water view for about 60 people and we will need a little room for dancing. If anyone has any ideas it would be greatly appreciated. None of us live in NFLD, Thanks.

      1. re: annastatia

        Hi Anastatia:
        For water view and atmosphere, you might try the Crow's Nest Officer's Club: Red Oak is the house caterer. There is a dining room that could be a dancing room, as well as the pub.

        This is not an accessible venue, however, and will be impossible if any members of your party have a mobility impairment. I can think of a few others that pose the same problem. Let me know if that is a concern and I will put on my thinking hat....

    2. I have yet to eat there, but The Vault Restaurant and Champagne Bar recently got a very good review in a local paper:

      Here's the review:

      I have also been told that Basho, a Japanese fusion restaurant, is quite good. The chef who runs the place, Tak Ishiwata, trained at Nobu Tokyo:

      5 Replies
      1. re: maclock

        LOL...I think the reviewer liked it. I was wondering when he was going to finally get to the food after all the enthusiastic prose about the room, the Hugo Boss clad staff ....some who have worked in Toronto and Ottawa...oh joy!!!....and the Fashion TV providing "eye-candy" for the diners...yechhhh!!!!

        $250. maclock is that what one would expect to pay for "fine dining" in St. John's or is this place a tad "over the top" for the area? No criticism intended, just curious. How would it compare to say the Hotel Newfoundland?

        It has been too long since my last visit to Newfoundland and we certainly were not eating in spots like the Vault back in my university days. Truth be known I think the last spot was Duckworth Pizza,

        1. re: Bob Mac

          Well, I was at the grand opening of this place, and while the space isn't my cup of tea, both the kitchen and the wait staff are very good. Most of them worked at Bianca's, a St. John's institution, when it was in its heyday (it may be a little past its prime right now).

          The sommelier used to work at a very high-end place in T.O. The name of it escapes me right now. It has been a long-time since I went out on the town in Toronto, but it was one of the most buzz-worthy and best-reviewed places in the Big Smoke.

          I'd wager that the food is as good as the reviewer made it out to be, but the space is perhaps a little too over-the-top for most of us. I don't know what these guys ordered off the top of my head, but I suspect that the Cabot Club, the fine dining room at the Fairmont Newfoundland, is probably every bit as expensive and not nearly as good.

          Duckworth Pizza? Man, I was born and raised in St. John's and I can't ever remember a place called Duckworth Pizza. You may be dating yourself here, Bob. Might you mean Napoli Pizza, perhaps?

          1. re: maclock


            Napoli Pizza! That is it. Yes, thank you for assisting the flagging memory....blame it on too much Screech [smile].

            Yes we are talking all of 30 years ago so I am definitely dating myself...indeed some would say "stale dating".

            At the time I was playing soccer for a team sponsored by a gentleman who owned a large Italian restaurant on St. Laurent Blvd up near Dante in Montreal. His wife was right into the kitchen as the owners of Napoli made up a meal of pasta.

            We were in St. John's staying at MUN playing soccer against a team from Ontario, the Saint John Highlanders from NB and Nfld's St. Lawrence. Good times. A couple of years later I went to Dalhousie in Halifax and met at least a couple of the fellows from St. Lawrence who had decided to go to school at MUN...Slaney [common name in the area] and Babstock.

            1. re: Bob Mac

              Ah, sure, I'm dating myself now, too, Bob. Napoli Pizza closed about twenty years ago when the old Italian couple running the place retired. It was a popular little place for homestyle Italian grub downtown. One of my childhood friends was a huge fan.

              St. John's dining, while still not as refined as what you're likely to find in Halifax, has come a long way since then! :-) There are a few gems mixed in amongst the pubs, the fast food joints and the fish and chip shops, though.

          1. I've just returned from St John's and stayed at the Battery Hotel. The views from the dining room and the bar over the harbour are panoramic and fantastic. The foods reasonable and not to pricey. We did find a gem, however. The Beach House in Portugese Bay about 5 miles outside St John's. Exquisite food and presenatation. Fantastic service and good ocean views. Voted, I am told, by my daughter who worked as a journalist on a local newspaper, the best restaurant in Canada! Not cheap but very reasonable for what you get. carl

            3 Replies
            1. re: carl grigg


              Not quite claimed to be the "best" restaurant in Canada but the top of the list for the best "new" restaurants of 2007


              Whether this is correct or not we can debate this type of assessment particularly when it comes from En Route Magazine, but I certainly would try to visit if I get back to Newfoundland given the report and your comments.

              The picture of chef Charles and the halibut on the bluffs overlooking the Atlantic is enough for me to want to give it a try.

                1. re: mwright

                  Thanks for correcting my senior moment. carl

              1. In case you are interested in seeing what "fine-dining" looked like in Newfoundland forty years ago, I will direct you to the Woodstock Colonial Inn (Paradise, near Topsail, a 15 minute drive outside St. John's). The last time I was there 3 years ago, it hadn't changed a bit. Same decor, think heavy mahoghany and flocked red velvet. Same waitresses in aprons. But our daughter joined us from her restaurant job at Il Mercato in Halifax. She had never been to where Mum grew up before and she just loved it. Now we are talking old-fashioned Newfoundland grub here, not high end cuisine, but authentic. Cods tongues with scruncheons, moose stew and rabbit pie and partridge berry crisp and blueberry pie for dessert.It is worth a visit if you have time.